Shooting Steam

Part of my steampunk project has been photographing my art, fashion and book covers. I love this outlet for my creativity. I rarely pass up the opportunity to be a chameleon or show my work.

When I first starting looking at steampunk as an art form, I had an iphone 4s. Previously I’ve had throw away cameras, a 35mm and a Kodak digital. The camera on my phone blew me away. The ability to edit on the spot, send pics instantly and a long battery life suddenly made shooting pics exhilarating.

The cover for “Strax and the Widow” is a good example of this process. I already had a good logo from a graphic designer, I just needed a decent image. I was going to “play” my main character Kate Church, but after a while I decided I needed something powerful. An pic that would demonstrate Kate’s strength and the antique setting of the Wild West. I finally settled on some objects that represented key plots in the book which were assembled on a repro Victorian chair. One of the props is an eight foot bull whip that I actually know how to use. And somehow lost in my 600 square foot apartment. Fortunately I work for a costume shop and picked up a replacement. I shot it in color and liked the composition, but it just didn’t click…


…until I filtered it to black and white. Then, magic:


Add the logo, a graphic background and voila, cover done:

Strax Book Cover

Another benefit to all this self portraiture has been a tremendous morale booster. I’ve never been the thinnest girl in the room, but expressing myself through the characters in my book has been liberating, to say the least. When I started “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series, the covers had kind of cute illustrations of objects related to the book. As the series has progressed, I realized that the covers needed some sophistication. I had found a model/actor, Patrick Renfrow, to be Will, my vampire, and used him for a couple shots (one of which is Patrick’s own self portrait). Other than those two volumes that feature “Will” on the front, only one other “Svetlana Red and the Chevaliers” is not me. Yep, I’m on the remaining seven covers, or parts of me. Wigs (I’ve now added 2 new ones to my collection), make-up and some ham acting have resulted in some really nice shots.

This last couple of weeks, I had only three more covers to reshoot as I prepare to put all ten vamp stories in a compilation, “The First Ten Bites”.

First up, was “Emma” from “The Long Moonlight”. A week ago, on late Sunday eve, the lighting was perfect with dusk settling in with a mix of blue Christmas lights. Emma is a werewolf and the moon enchants her. She comes undone. I let my auburn hair fly. I really liked how this set came out, even with the light distortion. First the actual cover and cover shot, then other takes from this set:

1 The Long Moonlight

The Long Moonlight

Moonlight 1A Moonlight 2 Moonlight 4 Moonlight 5

Next up was a reshoot, just a couple days later, for “Mabel” and “Roarin’ 20’s”, two of the older stories in the series. “Mabel” became much more of a challenge than I thought. This episode of The Vampire’s Little Black Book is different from many of the others in that Mabel is not a raving beauty. She’s an older, plump woman, a shy and stubborn farmer in 1930’s. This character hits close to home for me.

Back in 2010, I hit an all time high with my weight. Despite working out and occasionally dieting, I was, quite frankly, enormous, bordering on morbidly obese. I started training harder. I did the trendy but effective Beach Body Insanity. I managed to keep most of what I lost off, but after a couple of back injuries I started to regain some of the weight. The good news is some of that weight was a non cancerous tumor/herniated umbilicle (I blogged about it here: ). After I had emergency surgery last year, not only am I lucky to be alive, but I am celebrating it by continuing to take care of myself and get more fit. I am almost 60 lbs. lighter than I was five years ago. Got a long way to go on getting super fit, but I’m on that road.

Mabel was easy to write. I’d been in her shoes. So back to the session and how to get that on film…

How do you shoot yourself, while not so pretty but still make a good cover? I thought that this would be easy. It wasn’t. I ended up taking about twenty shots until I was finally satisfied with one single piece. I didn’t save any others, here’s the winner:


I needed to feature a locket (a key component to the story) and show the essence Mabel as a good hearted, plus sized woman. I think I succeeded, here’s the finished cover:

4 Mabel

In stark contrast, I shot “Roarin’ 20’s” cover immediately after Mabel, and it was easy to get into character. I had gathered up my props and costume. I darkened my make up and did test lighting with some LED Christmas lights:


20s 1 20s 2

With a new super white wig, and multitudes of pearls, I was ready to cosplay “Sadie” the poor little rich girl flapper of “Roarin’ 20’s”. Well, I thought I was. Part of the props were two real cigarettes which I’d bought from a coworker. I haven’t smoked since my teens. A bad episode of strep at sixteen pretty much cured me of smoking anything forever. So with one cancer stick placed in the cigarette holder, I started shooting. But it wouldn’t stay lit (after three relights) and I couldn’t get the smoky club feeling I wanted. Down went the holder and I lit up for real.  The noir filter worked incredibly well. I actually got a little nicotine high, and the good pics came quickly and easily. Here’s a sample:

20s 6 20s 11 20s 14 20s 17 20s 22 20s 25

And the winning shot and cover:

Roarin' 20's

2 Roarin' 20's

My cover redos for the upcoming compilation are complete. Soon I’ll have autographed prints available in the Etsy store and standard prints of the photos and covers on FineArtAmerica. Here are all ten covers of The Vampire’s Little Black Book Series:

1 The Long Moonlight2 Roarin' 20's3 Esme4 Mabel5 Creating Anna6 Thirty Three Forever7 Can You Hear My Heart Beating8 Everyone Looks Better Undead9 Svetlana Red and the Chevaliers10 The Vamp Hit List

PLEASE DON’T FORGET! You can download all titles for FREE on 12/26 from amazon/kindle. This will be the last time I’ll offer them for free. Please share and feel free to critique and comment on amazon or goodreads.

A quick update, the steam trunk has found a home, a local steampunker bought it. My Etsy store is almost at 5,000 views! Thank you so much for your patronage.

And as always, thank you for reading.


The Vampire’s Little Black Book series is always FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited!

-A new photo/comic book/essay “The Heroine” is coming soon to Amazon/Kindle.

-THE LADY HAS ARRIVED AT HER DESTINATION-“Strax and the Widow” is an ebook on Amazon/Kindle. Please take a peek, enjoy and review on amazon and goodreads! The sequel, “Revenge and Machinery” is coming soon!


-Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

-Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP

-On Pinterest-Victoria Szulc (nee Schultz)




-Fine Art America-store coming soon